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Out with the new and in with the old
April 9, 2013 1:01 PM   Subscribe

When Bill Ackman hand selected Ron Johnson as the new C.E.O. of JCPenney (previously) people took notice. However, after dismal fourth-quarter results, Bill Ackman had strong criticisms for Johnson, calling his tenure "very close to a disaster." Last night, JCP announced that Ron Johnson has been replaced by ex-CEO Myron Ullman.
posted by Arbac (124 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
It turns out the Hudsucker Proxy was fiction.
posted by srboisvert at 1:05 PM on April 9, 2013


Too bad. JCP went from someplace I never shopped to a place I regularly shopped. I especially liked Johnson's pricing policy because figuring out the byzantine "bargains" that could be found at places like Kohl's always seem like too much work. Have fun catering to the burgeoning stay-at-home-wives-with-the-and-inclination-to-clip-coupons demographic, Myron. I'm sure that'll work out in the long term.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:06 PM on April 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


"When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact." (Warren Buffett)
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:08 PM on April 9, 2013 [29 favorites]


My father's name is also Ron Johnson, so this article is confusing to me.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:08 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


James Surowiecki had a great column on sheer scale of this fuckup:
...over the past year, revenues have fallen by twenty-five per cent, and Penney lost almost a billion dollars, half a billion of it in the final quarter alone. The company’s stock price, which jumped twenty-four per cent after Johnson announced his plans, has since fallen almost sixty per cent. Twenty-one thousand employees have lost their jobs. “There is nothing good to say about what he’s done,” Mark Cohen, a former C.E.O. of Sears Canada, who is now a professor at Columbia, told me. “Penney had been run into a ditch when he took it over. But, rather than getting it back on the road, he’s essentially set it on fire.”
posted by griphus at 1:09 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The idea that anyone can turn-around something as monolithic as an old-school retailer in a year is delusional, at best. On the other hand, we're constantly being told that there's a good reason (which we proles simply don't understand) CEOs are paid so lavishly.

FWIW, the JCP in our town has always been pretty good, for a JCP.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:09 PM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


entropicamericana: Too bad. JCP went from someplace I never shopped to a place I regularly shopped.

Yeah, my wife and I were really happily surprised with our recent visit to JCP. You kind of knew from the start that they wouldn't give Johnson enough time and freedom to genuinely succeed (or fail, for that matter), but he seemed to be on the right track to me.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:10 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember going to their outlet store in North Philly as a kid. Clothes and shoes were cheap, which is why my parents took us there, but just about everything was basically hidden under piles and piles of everything else, in dusty aisles under thousands of feet of harsh fluorescent lighting. I don't remember their mall stores being much different. I suppose JCP could have done well under Johnson had they stuck with him, but it looks like there's too much cultural baggage to steer the ship in a different direction, certainly not within the time frame he was given.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:11 PM on April 9, 2013


I remember reading that the reason JCP's no discount sale policy failed is because people are psychologically wired to buy more if they think they are getting a great deal.

The "everyday low prices" policy removed that factor.
posted by reenum at 1:12 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I loved the ideas of separate shops within the store. It reminded me of Japanese department stores. It this point, it's unclear if Ullman will even keep moving forward with the new shops concept. But hey, they're still moving forward with the Martha Stewart rollout despite the Macy's lawsuit.
posted by Arbac at 1:12 PM on April 9, 2013


Ron Johnson turns out to indeed be a pretty common name.

The main thing I'm worried from this is that now One Million (+/- 900k) Moms and their cretinous ilk are going to say JCP failed because of their gay friendly advertising.
posted by kmz at 1:13 PM on April 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


people are psychologically wired to buy

Due to all the buy one get one free offers and coupons on the savannah.
posted by srboisvert at 1:15 PM on April 9, 2013 [58 favorites]


I especially liked Johnson's pricing policy because figuring out the byzantine "bargains" that could be found at places like Kohl's always seem like too much work.

In the article I linked (and I think somewhere else I've read) it is claimed that doing this was the exact thing that doomed him, as most consumers seem to prefer the opposite.
posted by griphus at 1:16 PM on April 9, 2013


figuring out the byzantine "bargains" that could be found at places like Kohl's always seem like too much work

My usual procedure is to walk straight to the 70% off clearance rack, hit the 50% off rack if I'm feeling like Johnny Big Money Vegas, and then leave empty-handed. Works for me!
posted by echo target at 1:16 PM on April 9, 2013 [18 favorites]


The way Penney implemented its plan also hurt. For one thing, Johnson didn’t test his pricing strategy—perhaps because of his experience at Apple, where market research has always been anathema.

Well, isn't this his own damn fault then, for not choosing stores to test and tweak his plans instead of a national rollout? At the very least, testing would have comforted the shareholders a bit more to stay the course.
posted by FJT at 1:19 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


JCP is typically one of the department stores in an indoor mall, right? Here's what they should do [DRUDGE SIREN: FREE BUSINESS ADVICE FROM A GUY ON THE INTERNET]: set up a cafe in a corner of the store with free wireless and nice seating. A comfy oasis in the hustle and bustle of the mall. When you purchase a beverage, you get a receipt, upon which is a coupon for 10% off anything in the store. The catch is that it must be used in within two hours of purchase. This would do a number of things -- it brings in customers (put the cafe in the back, so they have to walk through the store to get there), it offers another source of revenue, and it offers an incentive to buy more immediately. Has this been tried before?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:20 PM on April 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


I remember reading that the reason JCP's no discount sale policy failed is because people are psychologically wired to buy more if they think they are getting a great deal.

Yep. The last time I was at Penneys there was a couple (mid 50's, maybe?) in line behind me who were complaining about how there ALWAYS used to be sales at JCPenneys, but no more, and this was the last time they were going to shop there. I told them about the new pricing scheme, as I understood it, but they were extremely dubious. It was like the reverse of Spinal Tap - they could not get their heads around the fact that if the price of an item is $30, it does not make it a cheaper price than if you SAY it is $60 but here, take half off. I knew then that this pricing scheme was not going to last.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:21 PM on April 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


Has this been tried before?

In a way it's what IKEA does (except in their own building).
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 1:22 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The idea that anyone can turn-around something as monolithic as an old-school retailer in a year is delusional, at best. On the other hand, we're constantly being told that there's a good reason (which we proles simply don't understand) CEOs are paid so lavishly.

Why? Johnson managed to do it. Just in the wrong direction. I'm sure he was compensated well enough regardless.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:23 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The mini brand shops seems like a dubious idea to me. People who go to Penny's don't care about brands. We go for a thing, like dress pants, and then compare that thing to other brands of that thing for different prices, fits, and colors. We don't give a shit who made it.

Granted I suppose the whole point of this was they don't want to attract shoppers like me anymore.
posted by Think_Long at 1:24 PM on April 9, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yep, what do people say when they buy something: "it was a good value and exactly what I needed"? No, they say: "it was on sale"
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:24 PM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


In a way it's what IKEA does (except in their own building).

Oh shit. If I buy some meatballs I get a coupon for the store? Damn I've been doing IKEA 100% wrong.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:26 PM on April 9, 2013


Oh the hideous clothing my closet is full of because it was on sale.

I force myself to wear it in contrition sometimes.
posted by griphus at 1:26 PM on April 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


I really hate department stores, in general, but JCP I never hated as much, mostly because they were usually slightly cheaper but not in a fell-off-a-truck-of-irregulars way (i.e., Sears).

Malls are not doing well, in general; anchor stores cling to life because they still carry slightly more things than strip mall stores (unless you live by an outlet mall) and there are still enough oddly shaped/stubborn folks like myself who hate buying clothes online. And the other mall stores survive (barely) on the anchor store customers and the parents who bring their kids there when the weather's not nice enough for the park.

There are a lot of good ideas like Hall and Oates' up there that could help but these retailers are old-school in a very literal sense. Changing what they do may just be more than they can handle. As with JCP, they bring in a new person, move some stuff around, get some ads, but everything else basically stays the same. The store layouts remain designed for the leisurely late-19th/20th-century shopper, not for people who don't have time to check 8 different designer's sections to find a black skirt in their size on their lunch hour.
posted by emjaybee at 1:29 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


My wife was a fairly regular JC Penney shopper before all of this. She completely understands the new pricing structure and intellectually knows it is a better plan both for the store and for her as a shopper. However, she says, the tricky part had never been convincing her the prices were okay, it was providing her with a reason to be able to feel okay about going to the goddamned mall. Killing the sales and coupons approach effectively extinguished the tiny spark of motivation to go in and check things out.

If they'd tried the same approach in standalone buildings, she said she might have appreciated it. "But you really have to give me a reason to brave going to the mall."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:30 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


You kind of knew from the start that they wouldn't give Johnson enough time and freedom to genuinely succeed (or fail, for that matter), but he seemed to be on the right track to me.

How much money were the supposed to lose? Because half a billion dollars is a lot of money.

They hired him to take it upscale, he tried to take it upscale, and it turns out that the only people who knew, liked, and wanted to shop at JC Penny were not upscale. You can't just jettison half your existing customer base in one fell swoop and hang on for five years while you grow a new one.
posted by Diablevert at 1:30 PM on April 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ackman.

ELP works, it just doesn't work when your loyal customers are accustomed to sales/coupons/whatever to drive them to visit the store.

The thing that is crazy is that there was a high profile example of this just five years earlier when Macy's (F/K/A Federated) bought May's and just switching from coupons to circulars had a large impact on trafic - and that was at least still a sale.
posted by JPD at 1:30 PM on April 9, 2013


JCP's path to profitability is simple for anyone with the guts to try it:

1. Axe all departments except makeup and Faygo
2. Liquidate staff and replace them with some real-ass ninjas
3. Ban magnets
4. Change the first letter of their name and grow fat on the Juggalo dollar
posted by COBRA! at 1:30 PM on April 9, 2013 [47 favorites]


Planet Money had an interesting story last month about the problems that JC Penney was running into.

The story actually made me consider going into a JC Penney, but getting over my inertia of hatred for department stores was harder than anticipated.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:31 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sounds like he failed to manage the expectations of the board.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:31 PM on April 9, 2013


set up a cafe in a corner of the store

I only go to Nordstrom to eat at the semi-secret cafés hidden inside.
posted by designbot at 1:32 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It just baffles me that someone could roll out a policy in this day and age that contradicts pretty much all consumer psychology studies on pricing AND is hated by your customers. So you didn't read the literature and you didn't do focus groups. That's pretty ballsy.
posted by smackfu at 1:32 PM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The idea that anyone can turn-around something as monolithic as an old-school retailer in a year is delusional, at best. On the other hand, we're constantly being told that there's a good reason (which we proles simply don't understand) CEOs are paid so lavishly.
Why? Johnson managed to do it. Just in the wrong direction. I'm sure he was compensated well enough regardless.


??? I could burn my house down in a few hours, but it doesn't make sense to infer from that that it could be rebuilt in the same span of time.
posted by invitapriore at 1:32 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh shit. If I buy some meatballs I get a coupon for the store? Damn I've doing IKEA 100% wrong.

Just looked at the site and it seems to be a special rather than regular feature....but one that's happening this weekend!
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 1:34 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. Axe all departments except makeup and Faygo 2. Liquidate staff and replace them with some real-ass ninjas 3. Ban magnets 4. Change the first letter of their name and grow fat on the Juggalo dollar

Would be profitable, but probably only in Michigan.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:35 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Planet Money had an interesting story last month about the problems that JC Penney was running into.

Something I think that story glosses over is that the store they visited was a made over store... but most of them are still not made over. So your local store may have just had weird changes but looked the same as ever.
posted by smackfu at 1:37 PM on April 9, 2013


It baffles me that it's apparently so challenging to sell clothes. Everyone needs them. They just focused on the wrong things: price, sales, brands, etc. don't matter. If I come in and I have a few things in mind that I want, make it easy to find and compare those things. Just like online, except more convenient because you can try it on! Carry a big selection of classy basics like pants with an actual rise, non-see-thru shirts, etc. to make you stand out from every other clothing store - there is no department store who caters to non-teens and non-menopausal women. But before you dump 1 million dollars into these ideas, find out what people want and then test it.

User experience people should be making all the decisions everywhere.
posted by bleep at 1:38 PM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


My plan for JCP turnaround. posted by Ad hominem at 1:40 PM on April 9, 2013 [39 favorites]


They just focused on the wrong things: price, sales, brands, etc. don't matter.

Have you ever managed a retail clothing store? Because those are the things that matter for a lot of people, if not most. You can mark something up and then sell it just by claiming there's a sale on it and sales will go up. Which is why doing that exact thing is illegal in most jurisdictions. But it works.
posted by griphus at 1:43 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yep, what do people say when they buy something: "it was a good value and exactly what I needed"?

That's exactly what I say! But I am an accountant who hates to shop ...

I haven't been following the JCPenney thing too closely but I had heard murmurings that the overhaul wasn't going too well. Then I went into a store for the first time in years and was pleasantly surprised at how much nicer it seemed - cleaner, more organized, brighter - and thought, hey, they must be on the right track. It was easier to find different categories of things. That said - I didn't find anything that I actually wanted to buy, but I was looking for baby/toddler things that aren't the same Carter's stuff you find all over the place.
posted by stowaway at 1:44 PM on April 9, 2013


I just want to buy some of those Stafford-brand dress shirts. How about having them sorted by size, type, and color so I can find what I need? The last time I was at Penney's, I spent a lot of time looking for a shirt and then after not finding one. I couldn't find a salesperson to help me other than a lady at the cash register busy checking out other customers. Was everbody too busy making things shiny and new?
posted by Area Man at 1:46 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Brave new retail plan, just dump all the objects into a massive pile in the middle of the mall with signs warning patrons that while all purchases are " free", some carry with them a terrible burden.
posted by The Whelk at 1:47 PM on April 9, 2013 [25 favorites]


I used to shop at JCPenney (or their website) a lot, especially since they had a far better selection of big and tall stuff than other places like Sears, Kohl's, etc. Now I find that they no longer sell a lot of the staples I want, and they are often out of stock in my size -- online, too!
posted by dhens at 1:50 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like JCP. Stafford FTW.
posted by 4ster at 1:50 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it is JCP with the new commercials, showing a split screen and showing two people with identical jeans (or other product) and then showing the price both paid for the identical product, with the JCP price being lower. I thought these commercials are brilliant. Simple and understated. They let younger people know JCP carries new fashion brands at lower prices, and not just stuff for your grandpa.
posted by banished at 1:51 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Whelk: Brave new retail plan, just dump all the objects into a massive pile in the middle of the mall with signs warning patrons that while all purchases are " free", some carry with them a terrible burden.

The Actual Person Store
posted by Rock Steady at 1:52 PM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm sure he was compensated well enough regardless.

Dude got a six figure "separation package".

This is how Unions are killing America's competitive advantage....
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:55 PM on April 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm a JCPenney shopper and what I noticed within the last 6 months was that they redid the store and took out many of the (overcrammed) fixtures. The place looked so uncluttered and fresh. But while I liked it, the older customers took it as "they don't have a lot of selection here anymore." While I understood the pricing (and those prices were great!) my mom bemoaned the lack of sales.

I also liked the once-monthly large circulars they were putting out.

I hope the ship can be righted, as my first job was at a JCPenney (catalog/credit/gift wrap - they called us the Service Corridor) and I have a soft spot for it.
posted by kimberussell at 1:56 PM on April 9, 2013


The Night Vale outlet store is having a sale on feelings of loss and despair.
posted by The Whelk at 1:56 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to shop JCP a lot, but then they stopped selling women's button down shirts without pockets on the boobs. News flash, Everyone Who Makes Women's Button Down Shirts Ever: no one needs pockets on their boobs. They don't function as actual pockets and I need more attention on my boobs at the office like I need a hole in the head.

(That would be my secret new retail plan. JCP execs, call me any time!)
posted by marginaliana at 2:01 PM on April 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


I like JCP. Stafford FTW.

I'd be fucked without Stafford undershirts.
posted by mullacc at 2:01 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm one of those middle-aged customers JCP lost under Ron Johnson's tenure: the 'no sales ever' bit always meant zero to me, because I've never given a damn what the so-called 'full' price is, just what I have to pay now, today. And dumping all the grownup clothes in favor of being yet another place that apparently only wanted hip, edgy, young (read: skinny) customers? Sorry, no: my money has been going elsewhere.

Hell, nevermind selling me plus-sized womens' clothes: I can't even find reasonable kids' clothes in there anymore: everything for even elementary-school-aged girls has been disgustingly, blatently sexualized, which it was not before Johnson and his "improvements", and I won't buy that garbage.
posted by easily confused at 2:02 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this where I complain about the pair of pants I just bought from JCP (after desperately looking for size 18 tall dress pants pretty much everywhere else) that literally fell apart in the wash before the first wearing?

I have had enough of the race-to-the-bottom mentality of American apparel sellers. I just want a pair of decent work pants. Not all of us can walk around in yoga pants and novelty t-shirts 24/7.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:11 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So anyone care to place bets on who folds first, Sears or Penney's? My money is on Penney's.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:12 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


They didn't even adhere to the no-special-discounts gimmick all the time--around Christmas I went in there to buy a pair of pants for my husband (because I've bought pants for him there before and I knew they were what he wanted) and they had a promotion where you got to pick one or two little badges with a code on it, and then you entered the code on their website to see if you won anything. I won a $10-off coupon right off the bat, and by God I was back in there a week later to buy pants for my stepdaughter. Got another badge, and another coupon, and there was a pair of jeans for my other stepdaughter.

That promo sure as shooting did what it was supposed to (and I'm one who DOES clip coupons and deal with the "byzantine" structure of Kohl's, despite being a working stepmom). I guess it was a sort of last gasp for that CEO, which is kind of a shame.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:12 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dude got a six figure "separation package".

That's all? That's a terrible, terrible deal by CEO standards. He earned more than $50 million in 2011, and AVERAGED that during his time at Apple ($400 million over seven years).

Thanks to the magic of the "Lake Wobegon effect", wherein all CEO contracts stipulate that compensation will be above average, these fellows move rapidly up the pay scale.

And the best part is, the worse you suck, the more they have to pay to get rid of you!
posted by Fnarf at 2:13 PM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah banished, I saw those and thought the same thing. I suspect if they started that style of add from the beginning, they wouldn't have had nearly the problem. But people were just confused because it was too different. They really needed to push the honest prices angle more.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2013


He earned more than $50 million in 2011

Guys, I think I found away to save the store money.

(lights that only turn on when a customer is in the room! I'm a GENUIS)
posted by The Whelk at 2:16 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was like the reverse of Spinal Tap - they could not get their heads around the fact that if the price of an item is $30, it does not make it a cheaper price than if you SAY it is $60 but here, take half off. I knew then that this pricing scheme was not going to last.

Someone needs to corner this demographic by starting a 99% off* store. After it, it must be the best deal since you can't offer a bigger discount without using too-complicated things like decimal points.

* However, the label prices are all itemreal price * (1/(1 - 99%)).
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:18 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


(lights that only turn on when a customer is in the room! I'm a GENUIS)

Ted: The system doesn't see black people?
Veronica: I know. Weird, huh?
Ted: That's more than weird, Veronica. That's basically, well... racist.
Veronica: The company's position is that it's actually the opposite of racist, because it's not targeting black people. It's just ignoring them. They insist the worst people can call it is "indifferent."
Ted: Well, they know it has to be fixed, right? Please... at least say they know that.
Veronica: Of course they do, and they're working on it. In the meantime they'd like everyone to celebrate the fact that it sees Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Jews.
posted by griphus at 2:18 PM on April 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Johnson was basically made of solid gold coming off his success with Apple retail.

But basically this was like hiring the world's greatest (American) football coach and giving him a baseball team. Repeating all the same plays he used before was unlikely to work out really well.
posted by GuyZero at 2:20 PM on April 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Someone needs to corner this demographic by starting a 99% off* store.

That's basically any "outlet" mall.
posted by JoanArkham at 2:21 PM on April 9, 2013


. And dumping all the grownup clothes in favor of being yet another place that apparently only wanted hip, edgy, young (read: skinny) customers? Sorry, no: my money has been going elsewhere.

This is the real key to me.
While I appreciated the end of the ridiculous markdown/sale/coupon nonsense intellectually, it was when I went in to buy pants and found the Dockers/casual pants section drastically smaller in favor of (I kid you not) neon lime and orange pants that lost me as a customer.
posted by madajb at 2:22 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was just about to say that JoanArkham. I mean I know that the 90% off price on those Calvin Klien pants is closer to the actual price of materials and labor for the item but that's just cause the original retail price is totally arbitrary.
posted by The Whelk at 2:23 PM on April 9, 2013


Brave new retail plan, just dump all the objects into a massive pile in the middle of the mall with signs warning patrons that while all purchases are " free", some carry with them a terrible burden.

Replace "free" with "inexpensive" and "some" with "all," and you have Wal-Mart.
posted by zippy at 2:26 PM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am honestly curious: Has there ever been a big retail company that has successfully executed the "Throw out the baby with the bathwater and alienate the entire customer base" gambit?
posted by usonian at 2:27 PM on April 9, 2013


I'd been curious, but not curious enough to go into a mall for it.
posted by wotsac at 2:28 PM on April 9, 2013


"Throw out the baby with the bathwater and alienate the entire customer base"

Abercrombie & Fitch, sort of.
posted by griphus at 2:29 PM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


He was a Mercedes dealer selling Fords, and he try to sell them like Mercedes. And, unsurprisingly, Ford buyers didn't want expensive seeming Fords, and Mercedes buyers stayed away from the Ford dealer.

I'm pretty sure the plan was to replace the discount driven shoppers, who are price fixated *and* have no true loyalty, with customers willing to pay more for better goods and less hassle.

With Apple, this was easy, because they're a premium product. You didn't buy one to save money, you bought one because that's what you wanted, and really, the whole point was to get out of the way and let you pick one and buy it. They never competed on price, so there was never a real need to try. They just said "Here's our thing, we think it is a very good thing, and it costs X."

But, JC Penney was seen as a discount shop -- by both those who bought there and those who didn't. So, for those looking for quality, it remained under "cheap" and they didn't go. And for those price driven, they never saw any sales, so they didn't go.

So, nobody saw a deal on a Ford, and Mercedes buyers never look at Ford dealers.

FAIL.

It might have worked better if they changed the name to shed the "Penney=Discounted Prices" mindset.

Also -- we don't know if *he* truly failed or not. Yes, he failed. The question is "Did he fail more than the old guy would have failed?" We never can know, but I suspect he did fail, in the sense that JCP lost more money than they would if they'd stayed the same as before.

But maybe, between the economy and the trend against department stores and Malls, maybe JCP would have lost all that money anyway.
posted by eriko at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


There has been an Abercrombie & Fitch down near the South Street Seaport for like 30+ years. They were there when the seaport was a total pit. It was like an adventurer theme store or something, I used to love it. Now I walk past and it is blasting what I believe is dubstep and they actually pump perfume into the street.

Anyway they have the right idea. Shopping isn't about acquiring goods, it is about fulfilling a psychological need. This dude learned the wrong lesson from his time at apple, he was trying to make shopping easier, he should have been making it interesting like A&F did with that dubstep and perfume.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:38 PM on April 9, 2013


That's basically any "outlet" mall

Except that outlet malls are a ripoff, with "sale" prices that are usually higher than the sale prices in the actual stores. The deal with JC Penney before Johnson is that the sale prices were, in fact, a real bargain -- and there were ALWAYS racks and racks of sale clothes that you had to paw through to find what you wanted -- but that's half the fun.

I've spent many hours watching and then eventually diving in and helping Mrs. Fnarf pick goodies out of the overcrowded sale racks at Penney's. It's fun -- "why are these all size 12, dammit!".

It kind of reminds me of how the original Filene's Basement in Boston used to be fun, until they spun it off (and killed the parent store in the process). It doesn't work if you're a specifically-targeted discount store; then you're just another Ross Dress for Less or Burlington Coat Factory. But it also doesn't work if you skip the discount part.

It's not about selling a $60 garment for $30 vs. just pricing it at $30 to start with. It's about finding it for $10 if you get lucky, and maybe buying a $60 garment at the same time for full price if you feel like you've loaded up on enough bargains to justify it.

The difference between this kind of shopping and the Apple "select the One True Glowing Orb for a month's salary" experience is huge. There are people who buy clothes that way, but those people wouldn't set foot in a JC Penney if they were giving away coupons for eternal life.
posted by Fnarf at 2:40 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Too bad. I've not been to the new JC Penney because there aren't any nearby, but I love the "no sales" idea. Wandering through mall clothing stores makes me angry; the frequency of "big sales!" is just evidence of how outlandish the normal markups are.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:49 PM on April 9, 2013


Someone needs to corner this demographic by starting a 99% off* store. After it, it must be the best deal since you can't offer a bigger discount without using too-complicated things like decimal points.

* However, the label prices are all itemreal price * (1/(1 - 99%)).


From what I've read, this is actually the entire strategy Joseph A. Banks uses. They make their suits cheaply enough to make a profit on all of them when they have one of those "Buy 1 get 4 free sales", then they just throw a bunch of zeros on the label for the "normal price" they never charge, but you of course think you're getting a great deal.

If this sort of pricing psychology/consumer strategy interests you, I suggest Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

Anyway, my "last time I went to JC Penney" story is I needed a shirt and swung into the store only to find heavy ski jackets and thick sweaters and that sort of thing, only it was the middle of summer and literally over 100 degrees outside. I know that's how retail outlets do their stock, but yeesh, no wonder they're losing out to Amazon.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:53 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


With Apple, this was easy, because they're a premium product.

Exactly. There is no fancier iPhone down the block -- oh, you can probably get a fancier case for one, or get someone to glue Swarovski crystals on one, but it's still the same iPhone inside. If you want to be flash and persuade people that your daddy's an oil sheik or something, you can buy more of them, but they're the same ones you can get in Kansas City.

With clothing, you have a hundred million options to choose from, even at the cheapest price points. Your Hermes shopper doesn't go to JC Penney, but with Apple products, your Hermes shopper and your JC Penney shopper go to the same place.
posted by Fnarf at 2:54 PM on April 9, 2013


Jc Penney will probably be out of business in a year. What a stupid, short-sighted move.
posted by empath at 2:55 PM on April 9, 2013


Is there any clothing store that sells decent quality products at competative prices without having to resort to the everything's always on sale gimmick? Or are the only rl store options left fast fashion crap, constant discount gaming, or super expensive?

All I want is a store I can walk into, find reasonably priced items neatly arranged, and buy something without it falling apart within a few washes. I don't have the patience to dig through the racks at Marshalls, or to make sure I'm buying the right item during the right week to actually receive a good price on it at Kohls and other similar stores. Why can't uniqlo be everywhere?
posted by Arbac at 3:00 PM on April 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


JCP was doomed. Its not a question of if but when. A reasonable person might argue that what they were attempting to do was hit a long odds bet with the radical change in strategy. They failed, and all the cash spent on that lottery ticket means the lights will go out a little quicker.
posted by JPD at 3:03 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Until I read your last sentence (Arbac) I was going to suggest Uniqlo.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:03 PM on April 9, 2013


2bucksplus - I know! Uniqlo is pretty much everything I'm looking for in a clothing store. I used to save all my shopping for my NYC trips. Now that they're in SF I can get there a little more often. They finally have an online store, which helps, but I prefer to buy clothes in-store instead of online. When/If they open an LA store, it's over. My whole closet will be Uniqlo.
posted by Arbac at 3:06 PM on April 9, 2013


Yeah, count me among those who can't bear to shop at Kohl's or any of those other places where the price on the tag is more than what the item will actually cost you; there is a sign posted on the rack that says "25% discount on blouses if it's raining in Borneo on Tuesday;" and the blouse may or may not have been set on that rack intentionally. Screw that noise.

So I was pretty bummed by this news.

HOWEVER. I have to think the complete clusterfuck that the JCP website has become had a good portion to do with their lost revenues. For at least the last year, good luck actually finding anything on there in stock in the size you need. Good luck finding anything twice, even. What a horrible, horrible mess.

This is a huge, short-sighted mistake. Nice knowin' ya, Penney's.
posted by trunk muffins at 3:08 PM on April 9, 2013


Oh, man. Bummed. Count me amongst those who went from never shopping at JCP to regularly shopping there. Just really loved knowing what to expect, and their return policy ruled.
posted by sc114 at 3:12 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


My plan for JCP turnaround.
Completely gut interior of stores.
Send some dudes with those black plastic glasses and black turtle necks to local marketplaces all around the world and do semiotic analysys.
Studiously recreate back ally marketplace, complete with vendors grilling meat over open flames, stalls selling live cobras,people shouting in exotic foreign languages, and perhaps small monkeys or packs or ferile dogs.
Carefully cultivate air of grey market disrepute think "this is where you can get anything for a price, if you dare"
Sell same old shit for same price but have each "vendor" "haggle" aggressively.


Ah, the old Zayre's strategy.
posted by drezdn at 3:30 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Went to Penney's after a long hiatus a couple of weeks ago.

The store does look better. I first stopped to look at Stafford shirts. The first fail was that the regular priced shirts were 15 dollars but as soon as you went to the tall men's size (the size my husband required) they were 30. Nope. Back in the day, they did cost more but just a couple of dollars or so and hey, coupons.

I was really there to get myself a black shirt. So I went upstairs to where the fat ladies go (that would be me) and started trying them on. I'm short so it took me over five tries to find one that did not totally overexpose my chest. (I am not talking slight cleavage, I am talking show half my brassiere in front.) But the shirt I got (buttonup, three quartered cuffed sleeves) rocked. And it was inexpensive enough.

So, I can kind of see where he was going with his changes, but it is really true that he totally, TOTALLY alienated the core customer group who went to Penney's. This is not where fashionistas go. This is where people like me go to buy basic clothing for themselves or for their relatives. Middleaged boring people -who have money they want to spend. There are lots of other places for the trendy to go, and they weren't chomping at the bit to go to Penney's. When us boring old farts left and took our money with us, what did they expect?
Not to mention, the economy is making a lot of us see clothing as something to cover our nakedness rather than something to make a statement.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:35 PM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


The second N in the JC PENNEY sign at my local mall is still burned out. It was out before Johnson arrived, and apparently will be out thru the next last CEO's tenure too.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 3:37 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really liked the flat price strategy, but then again I'm a psychologist who prides herself (at least a little) in trying to pick out the behavioral marketing techniques aimed in my direction. I'm not a fan of sifting through racks for bargains, and given that JCP is across town from where I live, it was nice to know that I didn't need to hope the right sale was on to pay a decent price. They've had really cute things lately, too, for a woman trying to bridge the mid-30s professional, yet still a little trendy gap. I'm part of the target demographic of that strategy, but I can understand how it was unappealing to their old clientele.
posted by bizzyb at 4:00 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aw, man. I really liked where JCP was heading.
posted by sourwookie at 4:02 PM on April 9, 2013


We bought all the ventian blinds in our house at JC Penny (of all places). We got them one set at a time so we kept going back to ensure they all looked the same. It was nice the last time that we didn't have to wait for a 70%-off-sale just to pay a normal price for them.

And I kid you not - the regular price was something like 4x the sale price. Who would buy anything at that insane price? So count me in for the new pricing scheme.
posted by GuyZero at 4:04 PM on April 9, 2013


Due to all the buy one get one free offers and coupons on the savannah.

U try resisting two-fer-one Termitin' Stix™
posted by nowhere man at 4:13 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


While there are people here hating on how "no sales" just wouldn't fling with all those middle & older Americans, my impression from reading The Wal-Mart Effect a while back was that "no sales" is basically how Wal-Mart succeeded. So I don't think that this is a particularly upscale idea or one that had to go terribly wrong.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:23 PM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


No sales is also the Trader Joe's strategy.
posted by zippy at 4:25 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


He gave me his card: Ron Johnson, Audio Consultant.
posted by box at 4:33 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


My father's name is also Ron Johnson, so this article is confusing to me.

My father's name is Myron "Mike" Ullman...small world!
posted by ill3 at 4:50 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I come in and I have a few things in mind that I want, make it easy to find and compare those things.

THIS. I tried venturing into a JCPenny a couple weeks ago for the first time in years, and I was in search of one thing - a pair of red pants. I didn't care what brand, I was willing to compare dress pants v. jeans, I cared only that they be red and have two legs.

It first took me ten minutes to figure out the lay of the place ("wait, so this is women's? So that's men's - no, wait, that's women's too? but what's that section over there - is that casual? But no, this is casual, so that's....other casual?"), and once I'd done so I still could not find a single pair of red pants in the whole of that JC Penny. After about ten very puzzled laps I gave up and walked out, empty-handed.

I don't care about branding or shopping experiences. When I want a pair of red pants, I want a pair of red pants and that's it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:03 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't care about branding or shopping experiences.

I would argue that the problem you describe is all about shopping experience. And it's one of the biggest reasons I don't shop at stores like JC Penney. I'd rather pay a bit more and go to a store where I can find what I want (and where there are helpful employees when I need them).
posted by primethyme at 5:09 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I couldn't care less about the CEO; the one they need to fire is the pinhead who convinced them that men my size wear nothing but Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts every single solitary day of their lives.
posted by MrBadExample at 5:30 PM on April 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by mcstayinskool at 5:33 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I liked the new JCP pricing scheme idea, and was excited about going in to investigate. The new layouts were nice, and I definitely liked that things didn't seem so cluttered as they used to, but I've been trying hard to cut back on disposable clothing and that's essentially all that was available.

And yeah, the shirts I otherwise liked totally had boob pockets, ugh. (My guess: it's cheaper to add stupid features like that to make the shirt look less plain than it is to make it out of quality fabric and with quality stitching to begin with.) They had some cute pants but it takes a special sort of day to want to go through the hell that is trying on pants, so I left empty-handed.
posted by asperity at 5:59 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hadn't been into JCP in a while, but I happened to cut through one today on my way to the food court (Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day!) and I was pleasantly surprised to see a big construction wall up with signage indicating that an in-store Sephora was coming soon. Hope that's still a go.
posted by candyland at 6:19 PM on April 9, 2013


Meh. Done in by snobbery. They axed the Big and Tall men's section at my nearby Penny's section, and don't you think for a moment that Casual Male didn't notice they're now pretty much the only game in town. $40 for a short sleeve button down shirt made from the crappiest fabric you can imagine. The $10 K-Mart shirts are lightyears better.

I'm sorry, Johnson, but Old Navy already exists. Stylish, thin, young fashionistas have no money, yet they're not interested in bargain brands. This segment of the maket is massively over-catered to as it is... the Gap, Forever21, Wet Seal, etc, etc, etc.

There is a pretty large and untapped pool of middle-brow consumers. You can charge these customers a little more, fatten your margins and get solid brand loyalty from them, but you need to deliver on quality. Forever21 is not your target... the L.L. Bean and Duluth Trading is. Some nice margins and customer loyalty in that direction, and Penny's buying power and traditional sales strategies means customers will see them as great values, not cheap prices. There's a reason those buyers are not already at the Walmart or Target: they have some money to spend on nice things, but not necessarily on luxury things.

All they needed to do to put Penny's back on the tracks is to put some separation from the other middle-brow merchants with better quality merchandise at a fair price.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:35 PM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day!
Wait, WHAT?
posted by jeoc at 6:46 PM on April 9, 2013



I was pleasantly surprised to see a big construction wall up with signage indicating that an in-store Sephora was coming soon. Hope that's still a go.


Sephora stores inside of JCP have been there since 2006, and was the original store with-in a store concept started by Ullman, not Johnson. As was Levi, Ralph Lauren and MNG by Mango. One of the interesting things was the higher $ per sq foot figures that Johnson and Ackman were touting as proof their new store within a store concept we almost entirely buoyed by Sephora and Levis stores which had been there long before Johnson.

As for Johnson being paid to fail or a large severance - he almost certainly has lost money since joining JCP. He bought $50M warrants that are underwater. I would guess he is down $25M as a result of his time at JCP.
posted by ill3 at 7:01 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yah, Johnson is a huge loser in this. Here's an article from a few days ago talking about his compensation and how much he stands to lose.
posted by Arbac at 7:15 PM on April 9, 2013


Except that outlet malls are a ripoff, with "sale" prices that are usually higher than the sale prices in the actual stores.

B-b-but wait, there's more! For a lot of stores/brands, the items sold at the outlet stores are not the same as the ones sold in the regular stores, and are in some cases specifically manufactured for the outlet. My brother has worked in a couple retail outlets where people would try to return outlet items at a flagship store and get refused, because the tag would be different (i.e. for Lucky jeans, the real store tag is leather, while it's cloth for the outlet. There's also product distinctions between stuff sold at Nordstrom's Rack and regular Nordstroms). It didn't used to be that way, but has come about with the huge expansion of outlets.
posted by LionIndex at 7:16 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have a suspicion he'll just go back to Apple.
posted by empath at 7:22 PM on April 9, 2013


Studiously recreate back ally marketplace, complete with vendors grilling meat over open flames, stalls selling live cobras,people shouting in exotic foreign languages, and perhaps small monkeys or packs or ferile dogs.

Change "small monkeys or packs or ferile dogs" to "semi-feral cats" and you did well in describing the place in the United Arab Emirates where I bought a nice Seiko for $97.
posted by ambient2 at 8:16 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know a lot of women my age (early 30's) that go ahead and clip out the Macy's coupons they find. We probably shop more often than men (and for pleasure) and we tend to hit the sale rack first to find cute stuff on the cheap cheap.

My ex was snobby about clothes---he'd shop for pleasure but only from BR, Patagonia, Saks, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom's and never, ever, ever touch a sale rack or consider anything on sale. He refused to even shop Macy's for shirts or pants. I'm pretty sure he would have had an aneurysm if you'd ever suggest he'd step into a JCP, let one investigate the men's dept or see what's on the sale rack.

His mom, a retired woman with lots of disposable income and a solid Macy's coupons/card/discount habit managed to get him to wear things she bought for him that she gifted to him (sans tags saying where thy were from).

Department stores should continue to focus on female shopping habits. The guys that shop for pleasure don't seem to shop sale racks at stores like Penny's. Me? I'll hit sale racks at the expensive stores and racks at Ross's just the same. I like dept stores and my friends and I can spend time together at places like Macy's very easily just shopping even if we're not in dire need of anything. We'll spend pretty easily if we see a discount we deem worthwhile. There is no regular price that's ever going to make us think it's worth the cost, unless it is something phenomenal or we're in dire need.
posted by discopolo at 8:17 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had just noticed some cute JC Penney stuff online and been considering going in there. I guess not.
posted by immlass at 8:36 PM on April 9, 2013


but has come about with the huge expansion of outlets.

Oh God that Brooks Brother outlet line, 365, is an embarrassment.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 PM on April 9, 2013


I don't buy that many clothes, and like a lot of men in my age cohort, am mostly interested in finding the item(s) I'm looking for, paying a reasonable price, and getting out of the store and on with my day.

I've shopped for years at the JC Penney near me for basic stuff like socks, underwear, jeans, and plain dress shirts.

I never worried about things being on sale, because most of the stuff I bought was of the need-it-when-you-need-it variety. Before Johnson's tenure, they did a fairly decent job of hitting the sweet spot in the price/selection/quality mix for what I was buying, and if something I needed happened to be on sale - hey, bonus! So much the better.

Since the new regime took over, the store stocks noticeably less merchandise (and less variety within categories), it's harder to find stuff, and the goods do not seem to be quite the same quality. Recently, I had to buy a white dress shirt there on short notice, due to having to attend a funeral, and the button on the cuff popped off as soon as I tried to fasten it. That's like, some dollar-store level stuff there.

I think Slap*Happy's suggestions are good ones. There a niche for a retailer like that, and Penney's used to do a mostly-adequate job of filling it. With a smarter/better execution of the idea, they still could do well with it in the future.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 10:32 PM on April 9, 2013


kmz: "Ron Johnson turns out to indeed be a pretty common name."

See, between this and the reports that he was attempting to manage the company from two states over, I'm formulating a comedic theory that the board of directors, unable to find a qualified person willing to risk their career and reputation righting a sinking ship, decided to invent such a person, and split the salary amongst them.
posted by pwnguin at 11:47 PM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


GuyZero: "Johnson was basically made of solid gold coming off his success with Apple retail.

But basically this was like hiring the world's greatest (American) football coach and giving him a baseball team. Repeating all the same plays he used before was unlikely to work out really well.
"

Not only that, but he refused to take context or feedback into account! Customer's don't like it? Well, customers don't know what they want, I KNOW WHAT THEY WANT! Other managers don't like it? They don't know what works, I KNOW WHAT WORKS.

When you're creating the first luxury retail computing experience built on prestige products with literally no competition that's GREAT, but taking a final evolution retail store system that is the literal pinnacle of evolution of competition between local and then national department stores, and then turning it upside down? Man.

It takes some staggering levels of arrogance to think you know better than 200 years of stores killing each other to figure out business models that work.
posted by stratastar at 12:19 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure pursuing the aging bargain shopper customer in times of economic stress is really a viable long term strategy even if it lets you eke by. I think the board was insane to back the kind of radical change Johnson wanted, but once they made that decision they'd already committed to alienating the core customers. I'm not sure they wouldn't have been better off riding it out than replacing Johnson at this point. Still, sometimes the middle management culture is so antithetical to the new CEO that there's no hope.

Johnson has worked at Mervyn and Target before Apple, it's not like he hasn't had plenty of experience at conventional retail.

The same store sale stats were dismal under his tenure, lost 25% last year, and expected to lose 10% in the first quarter this year. I can see why the investors might be baying for blood.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:09 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Not only that, but he refused to take context or feedback into account! Customer's don't like it? Well, customers don't know what they want, I KNOW WHAT THEY WANT! Other managers don't like it? They don't know what works, I KNOW WHAT WORKS."


This is actually something that he learned from Apple, too - Apple is famously anti-research, on the grounds that since customers couldn't design the ipod themselves, but bought tons of them once Apple designed them, they don't know what they want. Apple does.

"Hell, nevermind selling me plus-sized womens' clothes: I can't even find reasonable kids' clothes in there anymore: everything for even elementary-school-aged girls has been disgustingly, blatantly sexualized, which it was not before Johnson and his "improvements", and I won't buy that garbage."

This is a red herring: I agree with you completely, easily confused, and don't even get me started on the options available for toddler girls and boys: micro-minis with transparent stockings and patterned undies and belly shirts for the girls and shirts with slogans about being a lothario or troublemaker plus mini-military gear for the boys. I won't buy it, either.

But...we're in the minority. Hyper-gendered and "sexy" is what most people want for their kids, and its just as true in Nordstroms as it is in JCP. Selling this stuff was a good move - people who want "modest" clothing for kids are a tiny minority. Most people think that not keeping up will make their children unpopular or cause bullying. Letting them know that they can buy the stuff that will make their kids fit in at JCP is a good strategy...JCP just executed poorly.

" The economy is making a lot of us see clothing as something to cover our nakedness rather than something to make a statement."

St Alia, it's making the majority of people worry about keeping up with fashion, particularly for their kids and teens, on less money, to avoid being seen as misfits. JCP had the right idea on kids/teens fashion...but their execution of that and most of their other ideas seems to have been awful.
posted by Wylla at 2:30 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Selling this stuff was a good move - people who want "modest" clothing for kids are a tiny minority.

This is pretty much untrue for my kids and my nieces and nephews, from 2 up to age 11. I have no idea who's buying that junk, because no-one we know, across a spectrum of income levels, is wearing it, and you don't find it at the kids' consignment shops. I have to believe it's marketing gimmick, to get people to gawk while they pick up the cargo shorts and Hello Kitty sweatshirts.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:32 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I removed JCP from my shopping radar in response to those horrible overplayed ads full of screaming people. Thanks, ad! You've just informed me that JCP is where people go and yell. What, you mean those shoppers were in other stores? Then why was the JCP logo the only one I saw on the ad?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:57 AM on April 10, 2013


I stopped going to J.C. Penney because of their new logo. All that whitespace made me feel uneasy.
posted by mrzer0 at 6:22 AM on April 10, 2013


I always liked Penney's because it seemed like a place where you could go to buy a decent pair of pants for a reasonable price and not be irritated by the blaring dub-step, or the sales staff that acts like they stepped out of a bad movie about high school, or dumb trendy crap like button-fly jeans or khakis with pockets in weird places. It was a little higher-quality than the Sears or Wal-Marts of the world, but was cheaper than Macy's or brand-name stores.

That seems like a pretty reasonable niche, and there's no reason I can see that a retailer can't thrive in it, but for some bizarre reason nobody seems to want it. It's like you are just leaving profits at the door. Why? It seems like every clothing store wants to be high-end, or trendy and youthful, or low-end. What's wrong with being the boring, steady guy in the middle?

My SO works in menswear, and I've told her numerous time that if someone opened a store with normal, decent-quality clothes, reasonable, predictable prices and no annoying gimmicks like perfume and dub-step, it would absolutely take off. I'd shop there. Seriously, you want men to spend time in your store? Stop blaring awful music. I'm buying a shirt, not going to a fucking dance club.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:22 AM on April 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Seriously, you want men to spend time in your store? Stop blaring awful music. I'm buying a shirt, not going to a fucking dance club.

This goes for women too. Women also need to buy normally-fitting clothes in a non-saturated environment. Hopefully made out of opaque fabrics and without sequins.
posted by bleep at 8:29 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know why everyone feels the need to cater only to children, teens and retirees.
posted by bleep at 8:31 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


my impression from reading The Wal-Mart Effect a while back was that "no sales" is basically how Wal-Mart succeeded. So I don't think that this is a particularly upscale idea or one that had to go terribly wrong.

Except Walmart honours other stores' sales and coupons. So if you are a margin optimizer like me whose closest grocery store is a Walmart you watch all the other stores sales like Walgreens and CVS who have incredibly complex sales systems with loyalty cards, points, reward bucks and what not and then go to Walmart for the price match.

The no sales things worked for Apple because their target market is exclusively people with more money than time (and some would add 'sense'). A department store on the hand has to target the entire range of possible customers to make money on their large infrastructure costs. That's where coupons and sale prices kick in. You can let your entire customer self-segregate into groups from more-time-than-money to more-money-than-time and sell to them all with varying degrees of profit.

I do however hear everyone complaining about wanting a store that will sell them basic classic reasonable quality fashion staples without trendy crap. That's how I used to treat the GAP before they went crap and crazy (though I do confess I wait until they have a 10-15% off offer because I am patient and I know it will come). I wish stores would have the sense to reserve a portion of their inventory to cover this so I don't have to stockpile things I like.
posted by srboisvert at 8:58 AM on April 10, 2013


This goes for women too. Women also need to buy normally-fitting clothes in a non-saturated environment. Hopefully made out of opaque fabrics and without sequins.

I was referencing a conversation I've had about menswear, but yeah...it does. As does your point about teens and retirees.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:08 AM on April 10, 2013


We were loyal JCP customers for decades-- now I'm demoralized by the lack of inventory in the stores and web site. My husband has worn the Arizona polo shirts in the same size for 20 years, he likes the "Tall" fit because the sleeves cover his wrist bones. When I couldn't find size LT at Penneys in person or on the web, I bought 4 polos from LLBean.

Penneys had their own fit standards, so the manufacturer had to modify the patterns for items sold to JCP. The customer could rely on the fit -- I always knew the same size would fit us in any of the JCP private label brands, and I was able to order from the internet with few returns and exchanges.

Penneys had "Better Basics." Penneys used to have one of the better Quality Assurance programs in retail. Every manufacturer was audited, and needed a score of 50 to keep the contract. In order to produce the "Private Label" brands like Stafford and Arizona Jeans, the manufacturer needed to keep a score of 70. The audit included general practices and facilities, as well as shipment by shipment audit results. (I know this from direct experience in a manufacturer.)

There used to be a dozen reliable retailers for classic, well made, "no logo" merchandise in non-threatening colors. One by one, they've been gutted and left by the wayside. I blame the stock market-- publicly traded companies have to make year over year returns-- so they lay off 25% of their workforce to make the numbers look good.
posted by ohshenandoah at 9:34 AM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Chief's Silicon Valley Style Quickly Clashed at J.C. Penney - this NY Times article today details how Johnson made mistake after mistake at Penney.
posted by plastic_animals at 10:01 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope JC Penney survives this--it was my mom's go-to store when I was a kid, and in a weird way I felt like I had finally clawed my way back into the middle class when my income trajectory allowed me to step up the ladder from church rummage sale ($2/bag) to thrift shops ($3 an item) to K-Mart/Target before finally being able to afford to shop at JC Penney. I'm not sure exactly why, but I have always preferred shopping in both the old-style and remodeled Penneys compared to Macy's, the latter of which at least around here is uber confusing and disorganized and never has that One Thing You Loved from the Circular.

I liked the new pricing strategy--it certainly made it easier to shop their with my kids because I didn't feel like I needed to steer them toward the sale racks. I have bittersweet memories of my last JC Penney shopping trip with my son (pre "everyday low pricing) to buy a winter coat. Out of the 4 different brands of pea coats available he had to pick the one that was at the regular, "fake" price and not any of the ones that were available for 40% off.

But yeah, their product mix last year seemed to take a turn toward an overly bright and trendy aesthetic that was often simultaneously too "young" for my middle-age everyday aesthetic and too "old" for my teenage daughter, and we had to search through several different "branded" sections of the store for jeans for her, none of which seemed to fit her too-short-for-juniors/too-skinny-for-petites lower half. I bit my tongue and was glad I did, because he really loved that coat. But it still irks me that retailers put inflated prices on things so they can mark them down, because you know some poor sucker is paying full retail for it.

And yeah, the web site is a total disaster. I complained to them once about their "filter by shoe size" option that one would think would be a very useful feature to show you only merchandise that was available in your size but which in fact only filtered out shoes that had never been offered in that size.
posted by drlith at 10:10 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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